Vets Groups Urge Speed on Caregiver Benefits

“Strong caregiver assistance legislation this year will help our wounded warriors achieve maximum possible rehabilitation with dignity,” the letter says.

Congressional aides, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said the staffs of the House and Senate veterans’ affairs committees are trying to work out differences between the Senate’s Caregivers and Veterans Omnibus Services Act and the House’s Caregivers Assistance and Resource Enhancement Act. But they would not make any promises that a compromise could be reached this year.

“We are working on a benefits bill and would like to get it passed this year,” said a Senate aide. “But you never know how things will turn out.”

There is strong bipartisan support in Congress for the basic elements of a caregiver benefit plan that would include training in how to take care of a bedridden veteran, allowing the veteran to remain at home rather than in an institution.

Trained and certified caregivers, either a family member or close friend, also would be eligible for a modest living stipend and basic health care benefits, including mental health counseling, and the government would arrange for occasional respite care so the caregiver could take a break.

Differences in the details, such as who would be eligible, what training and certification should be required and how many people would be covered, must be worked out if a compromise measure is to pass.

The military, veterans and medical groups favor wider eligibility. The Senate bill, S 1963, would provide caregiver benefits only to those caring for severely disabled veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, while the House bill, HR 3155, would apply to veterans of all generations.

The letter says the groups favor the House legislation, with its immediate benefits for caregivers of veterans from all eras.

Signing the letter were:

The American Legion; American Veterans with Brain Injuries; Blinded Veterans Association; Brain Injury Association of America; Disabled American Veterans; Fleet Reserve Association; Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America; Military Officers Association of America; National Military Family Association; National Order of Battlefield Commissions; Mental Health America; Military Order of the Purple Heart; Naval Enlisted Reserve Association; Paralyzed Veterans of America; Quality of Life Foundation; The Retired Enlisted Association; Veterans’ Families United; Veterans of Foreign Wars; and the Wounded Warrior Project.

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